Today's main story is about an exciting stage that, for a few moments, got a little bit too exciting:
That's Geraint Thomas of Team Sky helicoptering his body into the woods, with an assist from a utility pole to the head. Remarkably enough, Thomas said he was fine afterward, and in some basic way I suppose that's true. He stared down the Col de Manse and lived to tell about it.
People are blaming Warren Barguil of Giant-Alpecin for body-checking Thomas into near-oblivion, but not me. There is only one force strong enough to knock Thomas off his bike right now, and that's Evil. We have seen the Col de Manse in the Tour before, doing its Evil thing:
That's Joseba Beloki, getting away with a double-femur break as well as a fractured elbow and wrist, that pretty much tanked his career (along with his personal information being found in Eufemiano Fuentes' filing cabinet). Beloki was a nice guy, and Evil punished him for it.
How do I know this was Evil and not the melting pavement surface? Look at the guy in yellow, screaming down the face of the Col with a body thrown in his pathway, and yet he emerges unscathed, despite locking up his rear wheel and heading down a double-fall line across a field. That's Lance Armstrong. Evil can't lay a glove on him.
But what's Barguil's place in all of this? He looks like a nice enough guy. And he was hardly the first guy to have trouble on the descent -- both Peter Sagan and Ruben Plaza struggled in the turn. There was enough evil to go around for everyone. Still, Barguil seemed to be its main agent. What gives?
Hm... what's that he's riding these days?
Oh. Oh no. Dura-Ace. Shimano Dura-Ace. Shimano. Now it all makes sense.
Shimano set out to destroy cycling earlier this year at the Tour of Flanders, mowing down rider after rider until they were finally stopped. Now here they are at the center of another horrible crash. Oh, and if you think that's mere coincidence, check this out from the horrific stage 3 crash, which I refuse to repost except in a pre-carnage screen cap:
Bonnet was knocked down by what force? "The wheel of Warren Barguil." You see it now? It may masquerade as a harmless Dura-Ace wheel, but there is nothing harmless about it. It's Evil. And what did that nice guy Beloki ride when he was gripped by unseen forces and slammed to the ground? Here's the ONCE team bike from that day, in the hands of teammate Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano:
Franck Fife, AFP/Getty
Giant frame, all decked out in... Campagnolo. Shimano's sworn enemy. Italian makers of cycling's greatest components, but with that dedication to beauty and performance comes at a cost. Jealousy. Aggression. Evil. All of these forces have chipped away at Campagnolo's market share, driven by Shimano.
Some will say "Wait! Why would Shimano attack Geraint Thomas, who rides for Sky on Shimano equipment?" I do not believe that Thomas was the real target of Evil/Barguil. I believe Barguil screwed up and took out Thomas, a not-entirely-innocent bystander to the Tour's unfolding drama. No, I think the real target was just behind Barguil -- Nairo Quintana. Last remaining serious threat to the hold of Chris Froome (and his Shimano-adorned bike) on the Tour. Quintana, a rider for Movistar, who are sponsored by... you guessed it... Campagnolo. Barguil may have sold his soul for a pair of generationally awesome climbing legs, but tonight I bet he regrets it, big time.
By the way, kudos, of sorts, to Shimano, who have sponsored the Giant team for years, as Argos-Shimano and Giant-Shimano, only this past year handing over the title place to Alpecin, a maker of hair products with caffeine in them. Shimano going on the down-low, and being clever enough to steer attention away from it and in the direction of Marcel Kittel's hair. A very clever diversionary tactic. But not clever enough.
Shimano and the Col de Manse teamed up again today, bringing Evil bubbling up through the surfaces of the road and setting its agents loose among the peloton. The Tour de France has done what it can to control Evil and ensure a safe, enjoyable race, and steering away from the Col de Manse is a good start, but there is still plenty of Shimano around. Now it's up to the rest of us. I urge fans by the side of the road to find what they can and hold it up in the shape of a cross at any sign of Evil, or Shimano, over the remaining stages of the Tour. It works. God help us all.